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April 30, 2017 / oneworld82

An unexpected surprise: Nanshan Temple

Sanya offers a lot of day trip opportunities to tourists. Unfortunately, most of them are either geared towards families (fun trips) in safe, “fake” environments (think of a forest park instead of a forest), or are geared towards locals and their entertainment (think cultural parks where local minorities are on display – literally). There are some serious excursions to do as well – Hainan is home to some nice peaks – but unfortunately some of them are either too far away from the beach for a day trip or close outright to foreigners.

So, it wasn’t easy to find something to do worth our time. The truth is that the hotels were also so good that it was hard to leave them. But eventually, we decided that getting out for an afternoon was a good idea, and while we did not know exactly what to expect, we settled on Nanshan Temple, a Buddhist monastery-slash-pilgrimage site located at the Southernmost tip of Hainan Island. I was not sure what to expect, mostly because many reviews I found were in Mandarin and because the few foreigners that actually went there and wrote reviews on TripAdvisor seemed unreliable.

In any case, we had the hotel arrange a taxi for us – one-way metered fares were around $25 and overall we thought that $50 were not too big a sum to gamble on.

We got extremely lucky with our driver – although we had a natural communication barrier, he did his best to be friendly and to put us at ease. The journey took approximately 40 minutes, most of which on a nice highway.

We approached the entrance of the temple around 1pm – the area looked busy. The driver said he would wait for us if we wanted to – and not charge us extra. That sounded pretty good to us, especially since drivers at the exit could be aggressive.

And so, off we went.

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We purchased our tickets, and decided to have some lunch at one of the stalls by the main entrance gate.

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While the meal was simple, it was tasty and gave us energy to visit the site under the hot sun. The area where this temple has been built is big – shuttles run around the whole complex. As you walk down the hill towards the sea, you start noticing the main attraction, the bronze statue of Guanyin of the Sea – the biggest standing statue of a Buddha in the World at more than 100m. The statue is impressive – especially because it’s built on a small island on the ocean which really gives the impression that Guanyin be rising from the sea.

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As said, the walk was long but pleasurable overall – mostly because it was downhill. The number of Chinese tourists visiting the temple was incredible – I think we saw 3-4 other foreigners but that was it.

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Once we reached the shore, we indulged in some ice cream to cool ourselves down and then we admired the statue in all its majesty.

Closer to the statue of Guanyin

Closer to the statue of Guanyin

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Pagoda at the far end of the site - best reached with a shuttle

Pagoda at the far end of the site – best reached with a shuttle

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The statue – with has three faces and six arms – gets more and more impressive as you get closer.


Closer to the statue of Guanyin

Closer to the statue of Guanyin

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As it was hot and as the site was big, we took a shuttle (at 30 yuan a person) to get to the far end of the temple, where the beautiful pagoda stood. The view of the statue and the sea from there was beautiful.

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Visiting the temple took us 3 good hours, but it could have easily taken 4-5 as there are plenty of sights, including gold-plated Buddhas and Bodhisattvas.

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Overall, Nanshan Temple was a great find. It’s always nice to explore local culture and traditions, and while the site is not historic and pretty touristy, it helped us getting a glimpse of the predominant psyche of the average Chinese vacationer. Nanshan temple is definitely a recommended site while in Sanya.

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